Perry: “The American Revolution was fought in the 16th Century”

The Texas Governor followed his poor debate performance with a spectacular gaffe.

Mitt Romney was the run away winner of last night's Bloomberg/Washington Post GOP presidential primary debate in New Hampshire. The former Governor of Massachusetts, who received the endorsement of Republican big-hitter Chris Christie shortly before he went on air, looked confident and relaxed as he discussed the economy and his proposed response to the twin crises of soaring unemployment and stagnant growth.

In an attempt to win over the Republican right - without which he will probably not be able to secure the nomination - Romney said that, if elected to the White House next November, he would sack current Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and replace him with someone in the mould of Milton Freidman, the late doyen of free-market economic theory. He also repeated the charge that President Obama "lacks the necessary private sector experience" to get the American economy working again.

In contrast, Rick Perry - who was under a huge a amount of pressure to win the debate following the publication of a series of polls showing a steady decline in his support - put in a hopelessly amateurish performance, frequently stumbling over fairly basic economic points.

Worse still, on a tour of Dartmouth College after the debate the Texas Governor made the astonishing assertion that the American Revolution was "fought in the 16th Century". In a convoluted statement to a crowd of assembled students and press, he said:

Our Founding Fathers never meant for Washington, D.C. to be the fount of all wisdom. As a matter of fact, they were very much afraid of that because they'd just had this experience with this far-away government that had centralized thought-process and planning and what you have you. And then it was actually the reason that we fought the [American] Revolution in the 16th century -- was to get away from that kind of onerous crown, if you will.

Perry must avoid gaffes like this at all costs. Obama's campaign team is going to be relentless in its efforts to present the Republican nominee, whoever he or she is, as the natural successor to George W. Bush who, of course, had an unrivalled habit of committing exactly these sorts of spectacular historical and linguistic blunders.

James Maxwell is a Scottish political journalist. He is based between Scotland and London.

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On the "one-state" solution to Israel and Palestine, what did Donald Trump mean?

The US President seemed to dismantle two decades of foreign policy in his press conference with Benjamin Netanyahu. 

If the 45th President of the United States wasn’t causing enough chaos at home, he has waded into the world’s most intricate conflict – Israel/Palestine. 

Speaking alongside Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Trump made an apparently off-the-cuff comment that has reverberated around the world. 

Asked what he thought about the future of the troubled region, he said: “I’m looking at two-state and one-state and I like the one that both parties like.”

To the uninformed observer, this comment might seem fairly tame by Trump standards. But it has the potential to dismantle the entire US policy on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Trump said he could "live with" either a two-state or one-state solution. 

The "two-state solution" has become the foundation of the Israel-Palestine peace process, and is a concept that has existed for decades. At its simplest, it's the idea that an independent state of Palestine can co-exist next to an independent Israel. The goal is supported by the United Nations, by the European Union, by the Arab League, and by, until now, the United States. 

Although the two-state solution is controversial in Israel, many feel the alternative is worse. The idea of a single state would fuel the imagination of those on the religious right, who wish to expand into Palestinian territory, while presenting liberal Zionists with a tricky demographic maths problem - Arabs are already set to outnumber Jews in Israel and the occupied territories by 2020. Palestinians are divided on the benefits of a two-state solution. 

I asked Yossi Mekelberg, Professor of International Relations at Regent's University and an associate fellow at Chatham House, to explain exactly what went down at the Trump-Netanyahu press conference:

Did Donald Trump actually mean to say what he said?

“Generally with President Trump we are into an era where you are not so sure whether it is something that happens off the hoof, that sounds reasonable to him while he’s speaking, or whether maybe he’s cleverer than all of us put together and he's just pretending to be flippant. It is so dramatically opposite from the very professorial Barack Obama, where the words were weighted and the language was rich, and he would always use the right word.” 

So has Trump just ditched a two-state solution?

“All of a sudden the American policy towards the Israel-Palestine conflict, a two-state solution, isn’t the only game in town.”

Netanyahu famously didn’t get on with Obama. Is Trump good news for him?

“He was quite smug during the press conference. But while Netanyahu wanted a Republican President, he didn’t want this Republican. Trump isn’t instinctively an Israel supporter – he does what is good for Trump. And he’s volatile. Netanyahu has enough volatility in his own cabinet.”

What about Trump’s request that Netanyahu “pull back on settlements a little bit”?

“Netanyahu doesn’t mind. He’s got mounting pressure in his government to keep building. He will welcome this because it shows even Trump won’t give them a blank cheque to build.”

Back to the one-state solution. Who’s celebrating?

“Interestingly, there was a survey just published, the Palestinian-Israel Pulse, which found a majority of Israelis and a large minority of Palestinians support a two-state solution. By contrast, if you look at a one-state solution, only 36 per cent of Palestinians and 19 per cent of Israel Jews support it.”

 

 

Julia Rampen is the editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog. She was previously deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines.